Tomorrow is the 75th Anniversary of D Day. I will stand down on my blogging tomorrow, in solemn remembrance of the sacrifice so many made that day.
On that day 75 years ago, our father was completing his formation flying training in the B-25J, twin-engine medium bomber, in Greenville, South Carolina. Earlier that year he had married the sweet girl who would become mother of his two kids, myself and my sister. Later in August of that year they returned briefly to Texas so he could present his bride to parents and family, a happy occasion, but with the no doubt the unspoken fear parents naturally would have, especially given the news of the raging war.
In mid-September our father winged across the southern route of the Atlantic crossing, via Ascension island, landing first at Monrovia, then up to Marrakech, then to Tunisia, and thence to his final base, the strategic island of Corsica that had been recently retaken from the Italians..
For the next seven months our father flew 70 missions attacking bridges, armament emplacements, power stations, and yes, German troops, as the Allies took the fight to the retreating Germans dug in along battle lines in northern Italy. Names like Brenner Pass and Po Valley were on the daily agenda. Enduring sub-freezing conditions at night in their tents as they tried to get some sleep before arising again at 5 a.m. for the mission briefing, then flying missions to targets typically 300 miles distant and holding tight formation through AAA (flak) explosions all around, day after day, takes a toll on spirit, but his 445th Squadron of the 321st Group, were undaunted in their tasks.
Our father returned unscathed from the war, although I realized years ago that he had carried silently what we now call PTSD, but he handled it well, yet it was his own internal battle. Back then there was not even recognition or acknowledgment of this condition, much less a term for it.
Daddy was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters for his heroism. To me he was always my hero, but there were thousands and thousands of heroes who saved Democracy in those years – especially on D Day.
Let us not take what we enjoy lightly, and let us not allow it to be squandered by those who have no idea what patriotism truly is.
And, yes, the photo of the B-25J, Heaven Can Wait, was the very one our father flew his last ten missions.